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Deportees cry discrimination!

Published:Monday | April 25, 2016 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
Dr Leahcim Semaj

Several Jamaicans living here after being deported from foreign countries claim local employers are making their lives difficult by refusing them jobs despite possessing the required skills and qualifications.

In fact, one of them who spoke with The Gleaner recently argued that the constant rejection could lead to some engaging in criminal acts.

"You're treating me like a convict, and I'm not one. Even if I'm a convict, if I decide that I want to change my life and start doing things the right way and no one will give me the opportunity to do that, then what do you expect me to do?" questioned the 44-year-old science instructor who declined to give his name.

"Aren't you then sending me to go and commit more crimes? Because I must live! It's ridiculous and nonsensical."

The instructor said he has been in Jamaica for six years since his deportation from the United States in 2008. He said despite possessing certification from Jamaica's premier skills-training institution, the HEART Trust, he does not get beyond interviews once employers hear of his status.

He was supported by two other men who said they saw rejection etched on employers' faces once they disclosed that they were deported.

The reported employment discrimination against persons who were deported is not new, but the instructor and his friends say the Government needs to do more to help create an environment in which they can face fewer hurdles.

According to him, "We are members of society, too".

Dr Leahcim Semaj, psychologist and director of the Job Bank, believes people like the instructor are experiencing the general stigma that Jamaicans have against people with a prison past.

"We don't do very well with people who have been to prison in general. The average Jamaicans don't have a full understanding of what deportation is about. In our mind, it has to do with things that we find reprehensible. The reality of deportation is far from that," he said.

He argues that employers faced with two candidates of equal capabilities will choose the one with the cleaner record.

But he said Jamaica "needs a mechanism" to help these individuals to be integrated back into the society to reduce the likelihood of them "drifting into antisocial activities".

Some of Semaj's views are shared by David Wan, president of the Jamaica Employers' Federation, which has a membership of about 350.




He said if a person has applied for a low-level job, which usually has an oversupply of labour, the person with the cleaner record is more likely to be hired.

However, he told The Gleaner that the situation may be different for higher-skilled jobs. "The situation varies. If you're seeking someone with highly sought-after skill, you may be willing to employ them."

Wan said the federation was not aware of any case of discrimination similar to the ones reported to The Gleaner by the men, but investigations would be carried out if a report is submitted.

More than 11,000 Jamaicans were deported from the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK), Canada and several other countries between 2010 and last year.

The 2012 Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica released last year said the majority of persons deported from the US and the UK was for criminal activity.

Joan Pinnock, the president of the Jamaican/American Bar Association, has argued that some cases are not merited, as people are deported on minor offences to a country they have no ties with, having left from as young as one year old.

Jamaica has an unemployment rate of 13.5 per cent, with the youth rate above 30 per cent.